Academic journal article Generations

How the Aging Network Can Work with Business: An Overnight Success after Thirty Years

Academic journal article Generations

How the Aging Network Can Work with Business: An Overnight Success after Thirty Years

Article excerpt

They dine out four to five times a week. They account for nearly 80 percent of all leisure travel spending. They buy more than 40 percent of all new cars purchased. They have a total net worth of $20 trillion. Who are these power consumers?

They are older adults. Americans age 50 and older make up the fastest growing and most affluent population segment in the United States. Little wonder that businesses ranging from mom-and-pop delis to global pharmaceutical giants are wooing this increasingly critical market. In fact, what surprises industry observers is that some businesses still don't seem to recognize the awesome potential of the senior market.

The lag can be explained fairly simply-old habits die hard. "For over 40 years, baby boomers and the youth culture ruled the roost," said Gary Onks, CEO of Sold on Seniors, a senior marketing consultancy in Fredericksburg, Virginia, in a personal correspondence with the author. "Corporations don't change quickly. And P.R., marketing, and advertising departments tend to be staffed by people in their 20s and early 30s. They have no understanding of seniors."

These 20-something marketers might be surprised to discover, for example, that older people have been the tastest growing segment of Internet users for the past three years. And that they are huge purchasers of toys, spending nearly $30 million on grandchildren last year. And that the top grossing concerts last year were by performers in their late 50s and early 60s who lured audiences in their late 40s and early 50$-Paul McCartney, the Rolling Stones, and Cher.

"Seniors buy everything that everyone else buys-and then some," said Onks.

The Aging Network knows that businesses would do well to take a look at these particular consumers. Firms that are not currently courting the senior market may find themselves left out of the parry in the coming years. Yet, while we have known this fact of demographic life for thirty years, we must be able to offer something that enables businesses to see the benefits for themselves.

Understanding the phenomenon and armed with this information, staff at the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC), which is the Area Agency on Aging (AAA) in the Atlanta Region, solicits new partners and partnerships through its Metropolitan Partnership in Aging (MPIA). MPIA, a consortium of ARC and its ten-countybased aging programs, develops partnerships with the business community in order to further its mission to improve the quality of life for older adults and their families. Therefore, each partnership is developed to ultimately benefit older adults and caregivers, in addition to being of benefit to both the business and the aging network.

The litmus test for partnerships must include a "yes" answer to the following questions:

* Is the partnership consistent with die mission of the Area Agency on Aging and state or federal law?

* Does it benefit older adults and their families?

* Does it benefit the business, avoiding conflict of interest or the appearance thereof?

* Does the end justify the means-for example, staff time versus outcomes?

* Does the agreement or contract, if applicable, clearly specify respective responsibilities? Does it provide adequate protections?

Other considerations include the following:

* Whether or not the partner enjoys a good reputation in the community.

* Whether or not the partner is reliable.

* Should the project be local or statewide?

* If local, can it be replicated elsewhere?

Other ongoing considerations are whether or not there is a life expectancy to the partnership and whether there has been a shift in the ratio of staff time versus desired outcomes indicating that it is time to pull the plug.

The approach to developing partnerships is as varied as the potential partners. Partners in the aging network have much to offer business, including information about resources, demographics, and services for older adults and caregivers. …

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